They were my window to the world. Huge picture windows that let in light and framed myriads of vivid scenes. They brought history into my field of vision, exotica to my eyes, drama to my heart, and vocabulary to my speech. They gave me a sense of relationships, awareness of character, familiarity with other cultures, and vicarious experience to my youthful naiveté. They brought the sweep of a vast universe to my tiny fourth floor maid’s room with a gated narrow window to keep intruders on the fire escape and out of my bedroom. They were the books of classic fiction that I consumed as a teenager.

They brought depth of perspective to my visionThey were museums between covers. They were unending galleries of old masters and modern movements begging for exploration. Their rich color plates were accompanied by detailed explanations that were docent walks through the rich collections. They brought depth of perspective to my vision, rules of composition to my eyes, infinite richness to my simple space, and great cultures to my limited milieu. They were big and unwieldy, not meant for bedtime reading. They were the big art books that I treated myself to as a mother of babies.

They were tools to use. To extend vocabulary, to develop values, and to prompt discussion. They brought other communities into range of vision. They brought diversity to awareness, drama to simple schedules, and vocabulary to their speech. They were a shared interest for both generations. They were the books that I took out for my growing children.

They were roller coasters planted in the rolling, unending prairie plains. They were the adventures in between laundry, work, meals, laundry, work, homework, laundry, work, obligations, and laundry again. They were the escapist thrillers and mysteries that served as my only recreation. They were therapy under the covers for a pause at the end of a frenetic, focused day. They were my books during the busy years of family and career building.

They are now entertainment and literature. They should have strong female characters and a shimmering sense of place. They must have elegance of movement and suppleness of language. They must exercise my mind, but without strain. They must meet my standards or else. I turn to other kinds of learning. They are the critic’s picks of my middle age.

I wonder what volume my bookshelf will hold nextI wonder what volume my bookshelf will hold next. Maybe it is time to begin writing my own book, a magnum opus for future generations. I can make my own mark. I can fill it with stories of my own creation, scenes of my own inspiration, and themes of my own. Plotting won’t be that difficult because surprises from the Supreme Author will keep it popping. I don’t know the ending. Will all the lines come together?

When it will be time, it will be finished and someone will pronounce: Zeh sefer toldot haadam, “This is the book of the histories of humanity.”